Orpington were unlucky to lose their second pre-season match against league rivals Elmstead Strollers by a one goal margin. Despite a successful implementation of a new formation and players in positions ideally suited to their strengths, Orpington were undone by some controversial goals.
Orpington lined up in their new 4-2-3-1 formation, with Facer and Martin the two players deployed in defensive midfield, bridging the gap between the recognisable back four and the attacking force of Akhtar, Kendrick, Sims and Turner. Facer and Martin took to their roles in fantastic fashion and ran the midfield, relieving pressure on the defence and allowing the players ahead to press Strollers back into their own half. The pressure paid dividends almost immediately and after a succession of four corners, Orpington broke the deadlock as Knott climbed at the far post and nodded home Turner’s delivery.
Orpington were immediately on top, however a decision by the referee to ignore the linesman’s offside flag resulted in Strollers debatably levelling only minutes after the away team’s opener. A mistake by the referee, but not enough to deflate the refreshed looking Orpington.
Orpington pushed on and continue to press in numbers, flowing freely as a team and it wasn’t long before Turner picked out another great pass to his far advanced captain, Rob Utton, who, on the corner of the penalty area lashed the ball first time across the goal, seeing the ball settle in the far corner and leaving the ‘keeper helpless. Orpington carried on their dominance of the first half and went in deservedly at half time in front.
As expected for a pre-season match, changes were made at half time with Haden and Mogridge coming onto the field with the former almost making an immediate impact with a surging run towards goal that was thwarted by the Strollers defender. However, the changes may have disrupted the evident organisation of the first half and Strollers levelled the score with a simple set piece routine that saw their unmarked striker volley into the net.
Having only been on the field a matter of minutes, Mogridge was forced off with an injury to his foot and Akhtar returned to the field and soon after, Orpington conceded again. A decision by ‘keeper, Matt Utton, saw him come to punch the ball clear from a cross, only to climb over the back of his defenders, preventing a chance to clear with their heads. The scramble fell fortuitously to the head of a Strollers player, who guided the gift into the back of the net. Strollers led, but it did not tell the story of the match with Knott further adding to Orpington’s dominating attacks and providing two great deliveries that, come the start of the season, will need to be put away.
Orpington picked themselves up and were straight back into the game with Martin returning to the field to re-join Facer in defensive midfield. Attacks forced saves and corners respectively and with only 10 minutes to go, Akhtar broke to the right by-line, cut a perfect ball back to the awaiting Kendrick who calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net. A deserved goal for the new signing, considering the work rate he had shown all game. Immediately after, Orpington were on the attack again and Haden was played through, beating the offside trap and with only the ‘keeper in his way, looked certain to score and take Orpington back into the lead. However the shot was straight at the ‘keeper who got down easily enough to save the attempt on goal.
With minutes left on the clock, Strollers tried to muster one last attack and broke through on goal. Despite winning the ball and having the Strollers attacker follow through with a knee to the head, the referee awarded an unjust penalty against ‘keeper Matt Utton and Strollers did not miss the opportunity to take the lead from the spot. The game ended 4-3 but Orpington would have come off feeling very pleased with the performance of both the team and multiple individuals who could have staked a claim for man of the match. One of Orpington's key players, Austin Facer said, “We are showing signs of improvement and continue to learn and try. A couple of decisions cost us [and] on another day we would of won.”
Orpington’s next match is against Inter Cross, at home on Sunday 21st August. Kick off 10:30.